Democratic National Convention postponed to August as President Trump vows no delay for GOP

"We're not going to cancel," Trump told Fox News last week. "I think we're going to be in great shape"

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published April 2, 2020 2:44PM (EDT)

Democratic National Committee (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Democratic National Committee (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The Democratic National Convention was postponed to August on Thursday over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The event, which was originally scheduled to take place in mid-July, has been rescheduled for the week of Aug. 17, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

"After a great deal of scenario planning and giving thought to how it is this event can have the greatest impact in the electoral process and the greatest impact in terms of what we can bring to Milwaukee, we felt the best decision, not knowing all the answers, was to delay this," Democratic National Convention CEO Joe Solmones told the outlet.

The decision came after former Vice President Joe Biden, who has amassed a nearly insurmountable delegate lead in the Democratic race, told "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday that he expected the convention to be postponed.

"I doubt whether the Democratic convention is going to be able to be held in mid-July or early July. I think it's going to have to move into August," he said. "We were able to . . . in the middle of a Civil War all the way through to World War II have Democratic and Republican conventions, and primaries and elections and still have public safety. And we're able to do both, but the fact is it may have to be different."

Biden had hoped to extend his lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., but many states have delayed their primaries until May and June. The convention's host state, however, is still expected to hold its primary next week despite concerns about public health.

It remains unclear whether guidelines barring large gatherings will be lifted by August.

"Is it going to be a digital convention?" journalist Yashar Ali questioned. "Cause there's no way an in-person convention is happening."

A poll released earlier this week found that 62% of Wisconsin residents supported holding an in-person convention, while just 22% believe it should proceed as scheduled.

Contingency options could also include a convention only attended by delegates, former Democratic National Convention CEO Leah Daughtry told CBS News.

The Democratic convention would be held a week after the Republican National Convention is scheduled to be held in Charlotte, N.C.

"We're not going to cancel," President Donald Trump told Fox News last week. "I think we're going to be in great shape long before then."

Trump has pushed the Republican Party to maintain its plans to hold the convention in August, The New York Times reported.

"We continue to prioritize the health and safety of delegates, media, guests, community members and staff, and we have full faith and confidence in the administration's aggressive actions to address COVID-19," Republican National Convention spokeswoman Blair Ellis said last week, adding that organizers "remain in communication with local, state and federal officials, and we will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with all stakeholders and health authorities to ensure every necessary precaution is taken into account."

But former White House aide Keith Boykin said that "there is no way to avoid" canceling the in-person conventions.

"Both parties need to figure out a way to hold a virtual convention this year," he said. "And the federal government needs to plan for mail-in voting in November."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week that stay-at-home guidelines will remain in place over a "matter of weeks" but predicted that testing and mitigation efforts would allow some restrictions to be lifted thereafter. 

Lawmakers have called for the expansion of voting by mail this November in order to avoid crowding at polling sites.

"In terms of the elections, I think we'll probably be moving to vote by mail," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told MSNBC this week.

Some party officials suggested that the convention should be canceled entirely.

"It's hard to consider the prospects of a national convention – a public gathering that usually brings together thousands of people – when it's not even an acceptable public health practice for millions of Americans to leave their homes at the moment," Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., a licensed nurse, told CBS News.

"I really do want to see it happen," Vicki Hiatt, the chairman of the Kansas Democratic Party, added, "but you know I don't want to see it happen at the risk of people's health."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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